Monday, February 25, 2013

Deposit of Hope

We had a very special time as a family both grieving and celebrating Warren’s 4th anniversary in heaven on February 8th.  We had the privilege of being where he is buried (or as we like to say, “planted”) on the actual day for the first time since he passed away.  Coastal Georgia is simply beautiful and we are grateful his earthly shell is planted in a place that reminds us of the Lord’s splendor and offers a glimpse of our eternal home.

This day is always bittersweet, and as the years have passed, Meade and I try not to have an expectation for this time….what we will feel, how we should respond, whether we will shed fresh tears or not…  We now simply try to be present, reflect on a cherished life, and look to the Lord to fill remaining holes.

We hug Warren’s marker, feeling the deep pain of parents unable to get close enough to their beloved child.  Some day I will reach out and feel more than stone; I will feel his warmth, feel his body whole, feel my joy indescribable.   

And in these moments, as we allow ourselves to deeply feel the love and to take in the pain, we are given a measure of peace.

All amazing photos courtesy of our dear friend, Dave Rathbone 
We wait for our home unseen… until this time, given a deposit.  A deposit of the eternal here on earth.  And a deposit of hope in His glory:

“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
(Romans 5:2b-5).

A hope that does not disappoint.

I am sure your portion may also seem hard at times.  And let me validate you: it is!  Jesus understands that.  Even He asked if His cup could be taken away (Matt. 26:39).  But as we look to the Lord and carry His deposit of hope in our hearts, we find our King is actually giving us His double portion of everlasting joy… something that can never be taken from us in this life or the next.  And we can learn to say, even if it is with fear and trembling, “Not my will Lord but yours be done.”

We have some praise reports to share!!  Thank you as always for your continued prayers!
-John is sleeping much better at night!!  Therefore, we all are getting some much needed rest!
-A world-renowned neurologist/mitochondrial doctor came to town to speak to a group of parents, and he told us about some additional supplements for John to try that may help him. 
-John was approved for Medicaid!  This is great news!  Just to clarify, Medicaid has a waiver program for individuals with long term medical needs and disabilities.  It is funded mostly from the state but also somewhat from the federal government.  It basically helps to cover many medical expenses, copays, therapies, equipment, and medications that are not covered by our primary insurance.  A huge help indeed!

Lastly, here are a few prayer requests:
-Tuesday, John has an appointment with the seating/mobility/wheelchair clinic at the children’s hospital here to get fitted for a new stander, gait trainer, and possible other pieces of equipment.  (And last week, he was casted and measured for leg, arm, and torso braces that will be used with different activities.)
John is a good sport, as always!
-John has a BIG doctor’s appointment on Wednesday at 2:00 with Dr. Shoffner, the mitochondrial expert who performed and analyzed John’s muscle biopsy in January 2010.
-For John’s mobility
-For guidance about what we should focus on in John’s daily therapeutic activities
-For an upcoming therapy trip in April which will focus on reflex expression and integration.
(Scroll down to see cute pictures at the bottom)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
 because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
 He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, 
the oil of gladness 
instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise 
instead of a spirit of despair.
 They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord 
for the display of his splendor.  Instead of their shame 
my people will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace 
they will rejoice in their inheritance;
 and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.”
-Isaiah 61: 1-3, 7

First professional hair cuts for both John and Daniel!   

Finished product!

Daddy and Daniel

John pulling off the ribbon to a birthday present all by himself!  John is one special boy to get to celebrate his birthday for over a month!

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Children Will...

“I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.”
-Psalm 17:15
 As I mentioned in my post Therapy?, my personal counseling sessions began as a requirement for my Masters in Counseling program in Virginia Beach.  Well, the four session requirement turned into years.... Five years later, I walked through my wonderful counselor's door for my final face to face session before moving to Atlanta. 

In this wrap up session, my counselor pulled out some of the initial exercises I had completed.  One of these exercises was a “sentence completion” in which the beginnings of sentences were provided and you were asked to fill in the remainder of the sentence with the first thing that popped into your head.  (i.e.: 1. My family is ______.  2. I admire ______.  3. It angers me when _____.  4. The future seems ______.  etc.)  

As my counselor read my answers aloud from March 1, 2007, one sentence truly stood out and has remained with me.  A gift from above that has settled upon my heart.

The sentence was, “My children will ________.”  I had answered five years prior, before having any children:  “My children will know God.”

Wow.  Here I was, a week after the third anniversary of my first-born’s death, and I hear my innocent hope, a prayer really, that my unborn children would know God… above all else.  

A prayer that was answered.  Not how I would have ever dreamed or imagined, but still answered nonetheless.  In that moment, it sunk in deep, filling every inner crevice... My son Warren was, and is, face to face with the Lord, knowing Him more intimately than I can even fathom. 

Further confirmation came a few weeks after this final session and shortly after moving to Georgia.  We were visiting a local church, and we heard this verse in the sermon: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and know Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Four years later, Warren continues to give us so many gifts.  And this is why we continue to talk about him.  This is why we must always sing his song. Not out of guilt, not solely out of pain, but out of love, and out of the hope his life presents.  

Warren's life reminds us that the true hope is in knowing God.  That our true home is an eternal one, face to face with our Lord.  That life is short and precious; we can either question it or embrace it and live freely (after all, it is for freedom that Christ set us free, Galatians 5:1).  As my former pastor recently shared, “Living this life apart from the eternal makes no sense.”  Warren helps us to link our eternal reality in heaven to a life full of purpose in the here and now.

 Proud Mommy and Daddy with Warren

Warren, we miss you and we love you.  But we do not grieve as those without hope (1 Thess. 4:13).  For there will come a day when never again will an infant only live but a few days (Isaiah 65:20), when dreams will come to fruition, and when all will surely be made new.  I am proud of you and grateful my son knows his God.

God continues to provide and show us signs of Warren’s life.  Just last year around the third anniversary, I found a few additional pictures of him on my computer that had been very dark and I was able to lighten them with Picasa.  This was a love gift from God to me, something He wanted to give me three years later.  I am smiling in this picture, and I am smiling today, on the 4th anniversary of Warren’s glorification. (Warren on the left and John on the right.)

Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
so that we may grow in wisdom. O Lord, come back to us!
 How long will you delay?
  Take pity on your servants!  Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.  Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
 Replace the evil years with good.  Let us, your servants, see you work again; 
let our children see your glory.  And may the Lord our God show us his approval
and make our efforts successful.”
-Psalm 90:12-17

Friday, February 1, 2013

Belief in Advance

As we approach February 8th, the 4th anniversary of Warren’s death and also his new life in heaven, we reflect on the blessing of children.  We reflect on pain and loss.  And we reflect on healing… the Lord making all things new in His time, in His way.  

Last Thursday through Monday were not typical for our family.  I made two last minute trips to Virginia and attended my church’s women’s retreat in between. 

Our retreat speaker shared the following quote by Philip Yancey:
“Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

This quote came to life as Meade and I helped dear friends in Virginia plan a funeral and bury their 3.5 year old son.  Reid was a precious boy who touched everyone who knew him.  Just like our son Warren, Reid’s life made a huge impact (more than most adults) in a very short period of time.  Also similar to our twins, Reid suffered from a genetic abnormality, seizures, and other ailments. He was a true fighter and finished his race well. 

We are heartbroken for our dear friends.  Simultaneously, we are humbled to have the honor to grieve and also celebrate Reid’s life with them.  Two intimate things we can share with other humans in this broken life.

It is not my intention to make this sweet family’s pain about me.  However it felt God-ordained that, in our 19 day period when we had both of our twins here with us in 2009, God was able to use us in 2013 while others were suffering.  While others were left to pick up the pieces and start the long road of making sense of a life without their beloved child.  God allowed us to be strong when they could not and certainly should not be expected to.  You are never prepared to bury your own child as it goes against the natural order even in a fallen world. 

The quote above is starting to make sense, beginning to infiltrate my heart.  Certainly, four years ago I was told that God would somehow use our tragedy, but I wasn’t ready then to hear it.  And I couldn’t imagine how any good could come from our son being killed due to a medical error.  Of course, the hole remains in our heart.  Additionally, we still refuse to make peace with the brokenness in this world... the same brokenness that reveals our need for a Savior.

But here we are four years later, and through the blessing of our dear friends in Virginia, I am starting to see more pieces.  Not broken pieces, but pieces of healing, pieces of redemption, pieces of God using our son and our story to walk in the grief and walk in the healing with another family.  And with these pieces comes some peace.

Reid with his Daddy and big brother
Reid is a blessing.  Warren is a blessing.  Our hearts are heavy, yet these children are eternal gifts that spur us to fulfill God’s purposes on earth during the days we are ordained here and also to live with hope and conviction, knowing our true home is not here.  Our true home is where Warren and Reid are healed and whole… in heaven with our Savior.

I pray we can all have the kind of faith (even for brief moments here and there) that believes in advance what may only make sense when time has passed and we can look back.

"I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."
-Psalm 27:13-14